H-1B holders and H-1B applicants can sponsor their dependent spouse and/or minor children under 21 years of age for H-4 status.
There are two separate ways for a dependent spouse or child to apply for H-4 status: apply for H-4 outside of the U.S. and change or extend status within the United States.
Dependents Outside Of The United States
If the dependent spouse or child is currently outside of the United States, the dependent can apply for an H-4 visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy using the following guidelines:
Dependents Currently Inside The United States
If the dependent spouse or child is currently inside of the United States in another visa status or needs to extend their H-4 status, the dependent must submit an I-539 Application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Center, Vermont Service Center.
The I-539 Application to change or extend status for H-4s may be filed concurrently with the H-1B Application or it can be filed separately. The I-539 Application, current filing fee costs, and more information can be found at the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/i-539.
H-4 Employment Restrictions
An H-4 dependent spouse or child cannot work while in H-4 status. If an H-4 dependent wishes to work, he/she must apply for a change-of-status to a visa type that allows employment.
H-4 University Study
H-4 dependents who are eligible to enter college may study in the United States as either full- or part-time students of higher education institutions. The duration of stay for the H-4 is limited to the H-1B’s period of stay. H-4 students are not eligible to work and are not eligible for practical training programs. H-4 students may want to consider changing status to F-1 if they wish to study full-time and want F-1 student employment benefits.